A List of Fancy Things Currently Happening in the Office

ONE: Our ever-resourceful intern Miranda is working on redressing the bluelight. Ya’ll are going to be impressed.

TWO: We may or may not be dancing to a Beyoncé song we hadn’t previously heard.

THREE: This dancing may or may not be in celebration of the kind and sweeping review of our new issue we received from The Review Review.

FOUR: We’re in the process of adding sample poems and stories to our issue pages. First up? Our new issue, of course! You can now check out work by Sean Bishop, Eric Burger, Heather June Gibbons, Polly Rosenwaike, and Eleanor Stanford on the Issue 34.1 page. And the links are blue!

FIVE: There’s lightning outside!

Matthew Siegel’s Summer Reading List

Before I fell in love with it, many of my earliest adventures in poetry reading were spurred on (okay, okay, required) by my teachers and professors. It took longer to fall than I’d care to admit, but I can only imagine the process would have been a little quicker had Matthew Siegel been my instructor. This summer he’s busy teaching gifted high school students at Stanford, and this is a look at what he’s assigned.

And how jealous of these kids am I!

If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting by Anna Journey: This is a book that continues to impress me each time I read it. Imagistically, these poems soar. They are both confident and vulnerable. Poems that make me want to write poems. Poems that make me want to be a better poet.

Please by Jericho Brown: This is another book I teach from regularly, especially when I am teaching literature to musicians. To say these poems talk about music and love and distance and identity would not be saying nearly enough. I love this book.

We the Animals by Justin Torres: His is a book that will beat you about the face and heart. Justin’s stories have made me weep openly. This book goes straight for gut.

Self Help by Lorrie Moore: A contemporary classic I’m reading for the first time. Lots of second person stories that really work and the ones that aren’t blend right in. Family drama. Love stories. Things of the heart.

Siegel’s poems appear in our Summer 2011 issue.

The Blue Light Goes Red Light!

Here at Indiana Review, our little blue light has undergone a makeover.  We thought she (he?) was looking a bit naked, so the most apparent solution was to break out the scissors and construction paper. The raw emotional power and slight sexiness of the lamp made it obvious that it should be dressed as Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne, cloaked in Puritan layers and with only the bright and scandalous letters “IR” to show her secret shame.  In time, perhaps these letters will become as infamous and compelling as the original scarlet letter.  After all, wouldn’t it be exciting to find oneself in “a moral wilderness” that’s “as vast, as intricate and shadowy, as the untamed forest” (Hawthorne chapter 18)?  Standing on her scaffold of a chair outside the office, Hester the lamp is a reminder that words are untamed, and that the wilderness of literature is not necessarily a bad place in which to find oneself.

Philip Pullman Is So, So Right

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy took me a while to get into as a kid, but by the time I’d finished reading it, it had, rather ironically, become a sort of bible for me.  I recognized that these books were full of wisdom, and their wisdom touched me deeply in ways that I continue to explore. At twenty, I’ve seen a little more of life than I had at twelve, and I find new levels of meaning every time I reread each book.

The thing about His Dark Materials is that it isn’t a children’s series.  But then, it’s not really adult literature either.  For me, this is a series that defies age boundaries because it has so much to say about humanity as a whole.  Pullman uses children as the vehicle for a message that is much richer and more complex than childhood itself.  The end of childhood is not the end of the journey as it is depicted in so many children’s books.  Instead, it is the beginning of a new and beautiful and deep appreciation of having a presence in the world.  Pullman writes of his protagonist at the end of The Amber Spyglass, the final book in the series,

“[Lyra] felt as if she had been handed the key to a great house she hadn’t known was there, a house that was somehow inside her, and as she turned the key, she felt other doors opening deep in the darkness, and the lights coming on” (444).

Lyra’s entrance into maturity, both sexual and emotional, is also the beginning of an illuminated presence.  With her newfound knowledge of love and desire comes light, not darkness, nothing evil or impure.  To me, this series is most profound when it speaks to our fear that when we are no longer children, we lose the best part of ourselves.  Instead of trying to regain an innocence that we can never again achieve, why not strive to appreciate the natural order of things?  Why not revel in the hefty presence of a physical body and its needs and rhythms?  Why not love ourselves for being human, for growing and changing and learning?

Along with their emphasis on the sexual awakening that comes with adulthood, the books tell us that all people have the potential to love, that life is precious to everyone who can think and feel and be:

“She wasn’t Lyra just then, and he wasn’t Will; she wasn’t a girl, and he wasn’t a boy.  They were the only two human beings in that vast gulf of death” (Spyglass 360).

To be human, Pullman seems to say, is to cling to others in the face of death.  Life begins to have true meaning when we (through Lyra and her friend Will) realize that death is a void, and that the beating heart of humanity is the only thing that anchors us in the world of the living. The physical body, not the purity of the soul that accompanies an ignorance of the body, is ultimately the most important part of being human.  And being human in the best way we can is the best thing we can aspire to.  As Will says,

“Angels wish they had bodies.  They told me that angels can’t understand why we don’t enjoy the world more.  It would be a sort of ecstasy for them to have our flesh and our senses” (Spyglass 439).

Pleasure is good, Pullman says, and for this he has been judged by those who believe that his books work against a traditional Christian morality.  Be this as it may, his message about pleasure has its own morality.  Lyra and Will are Adam and Eve in reverse, and the world of humanity is the new Garden of Eden.  They gain knowledge by trying to help their friends and by developing a mutual trust in one another.  The forbidden fruit, then, becomes the most beautiful and desirable type of love.  And the passion that stems from this love is not sinful, but rather the natural extension of love.

Pullman’s trilogy transcends boundaries of age and gender and addresses what is human in all of us:  our consciousness and our questions.  While his books leave room for interpretation, they provide reassuring answers as well. It’s okay to enjoy life, Pullman seems to say, as long as we are good and kind people.  This might seem to be the simplest of messages, but in a world that’s as convoluted and complex as our own, it takes a long time to get there.

 Miranda Hoegberg is a summer intern for Indiana Review.

Mary Hamilton’s Summer Reading List

I just want to take a second to talk about how cool Mary Hamilton is. Her hair? Wicked. Her charm? Disarming. Her stories? For starters, they make undergrads swoon. We were thrilled to have her at our Blue Light Reading, and (what’s greater than thrilled?) to publish two of her short shorts in Issue 33.2.

And this is the part of the blog post where I ask you to insert your own corny joke about Mary being an optician and helping us to see how great her book selections are. I just can’t bring myself to do it. But, enjoy:

The Sounding of the Whale by D. Graham Burnett: In my next life, I want to be a blue whale. But a whale in the past, not when humans were all about killing every living thing they saw. I watch the YouTube video of David Attenborough speaking the glories of the blue whale every day. This book is huge. It has its own zip code. But I live in LA now and summer lasts all year so I think I’ll finish this book before 2013.

Pigeons by Andrew W. Blechman: I hate birds. But my friend told me a story from this book about a pigeon that was a war hero. A war hero pigeon?! Sign me up.

Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman: Diseases. Don’t get ’em.